Temple Police hosts basketball game in honor of Sgt. Fitzgerald

More than 100 community members gathered to honor Temple Police Officer Christopher Fitzgerald at Amos Playground.

The TUPA organized a basketball game to commemorate fallen TUPD officer Christopher Fitzgerald. | NATE PULLANO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On April 14, the Temple University Police Association, the labor union that represents members of the Temple University Police Department, celebrated the life of Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald with friends and family.

TUPA organized a community basketball game at Amos Playground at 16th Street near Montgomery Avenue in honor of Fitzgerald, who was fatally shot on February 18. The fallen sergeant was the first TUPD officer to die in the line of duty.

“Fitzgerald was big into the community,” said Alec Shaffer, TUPA president. “He loved doing all types of community events and he was also a passionate basketball player. And, so, you know, both of these kind of came together.

The Fitzgerald family was joined by residents and community members, Temple alumni and members of both TUPD and the Philadelphia Police Department at the event.

Lieutenant Russell Moody, a 1998 psychology alumnus and member of the Temple University Police Department for 28 years, hoped the event strengthens the relationship between the community and the police department.

“I would hope that the community realizes that police officers, we’re human just like everyone else,” Moody said. “You know, we’re not here to lord over anyone. We’re just here to help the community and try to help everyone to live safely in our area.”

Members of the community attended the event and played in casual pickup basketball games while pizza and refreshments were also served. 

Fitzgerald’s father, Joel Fitzgerald, believes the turnout was emblematic of the community’s ability to come together peacefully.

“It’s very important that people from all walks of life in Philadelphia understand that everyone, no matter what neighborhood you’re from, deserves to be able to come outside and enjoy yourself at the playground and not be the victim of some random violence,” Joel Fitzgerald said.

The event was positive, and the high turnout showed that the relationship between law enforcement and the community is moving in the right direction, said Natasha Gibson, a 2001 education alumna.

Tension between Philadelphia police and residents have been high after more than 200 people were injured during 2020 protests against police brutality. On March 20, the City of Philadelphia reached a $9.25 million settlement in a federal lawsuit by the protestors, the New York Times reported.

Democratic mayoral candidate and Pennsylvania State Rep. Amen Brown was present for the event, and said that Fitzgerald — who he referred to as his cousin — valued bringing the community together.

“You got the young people out here, you got the mothers out here watching their kids, you got cops, this is a positive environment, and this is what the public needs to see,” Brown said.

Roughly an hour into the event, Joel Fitzgerald gathered the attendees in a circle on the basketball court where he and Lt. Moody led a group prayer.

Among the attendees of the event was Morgan Blann, a member of Running 4 Heroes, a non-profit organization whose members spread awareness for those who have fallen in the line of duty. 

Blann and her mother, Lauren Blann, gave a blue-lined American flag and a check to the Fitzgerald family halfway through the event.

To commemorate Fitzgerald, Philadelphia City Council announced on March 30 that part of Montgomery Avenue will be renamed in honor of Fitzgerald.

“Chris’s story isn’t gonna go anywhere,” Shaffer said, “Everyone’s gonna remember who Chris was, especially here in the Temple community.

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